Five Essentials for Larger Fund Development Results

Listening Skills /// School leaders, including development directors, must be able to effectively listen to current and prospective donors.   Do your donors give staff compliments on the flowers next to the school’s front doors? Does your donor want to know about your school’s curriculum?  Listen to your donor!  The ability to listen, to oral language and body language, can lead the donor to make a gift that makes them truly happy.   One donor might desire to fund a school garden, while another individual may desire to donate funds for scholarships.   Make sure your school is donor-centric rather than self-focused.  Being oriented to the gift giver can lead to bigger returns.

Big Vision /// Big dreams get big results. Strong leadership can propel your school to some major gifts! School leadership must develop a strategic plan and update in on a regular basis.   And, then communicate the vision and implement it accordingly.   Demonstrate your progress with correct documentation.

Management of Time /// Fund development takes a good dose of balance.  Research, cultivation, and stewardship of donors will take time and energy.  School leaders must acknowledge the time it takes for donor research, special events, gift cultivation, grants management and other related tasks, and must plan accordingly.    Especially in the one-person shop, development directors will need to multi-task and plan well ahead to not miss important deadlines.    Outsourcing development tasks can be incredibly helpful to a busy school leader without an advancement office, or small program.

Facetime /// School leaders need to spend time building relationships with donors face-to-face. They must spend time with prospective and current donors face-to-face.   Good leaders will develop a list of top current and prospective donors and build trusting relationships with those donors.  School leaders MUST out of their office frequently to visit their donors and update them on your ability to advance the cause of your school, get their advice on programs and projects, and obtain feedback on your school’s vision.

Transparency /// Good schools must be open about projects, programs, and finances. Leaders must be willing able to share the information with donors, parents, alumni and other stakeholders, as well as the general public.  Whenever possible allow for available access to your school’s 990 form. Remember donors want specific, measurable information about your school’s accomplishments, goals, and needs.